Call to streamline Public Service

Public servants work for the Government and for citizens. In any country, they are responsible to the elected Government and not to a political party. They develop and deliver public programmes or services, inform policy-making, and provide evidence-based advice to political leadership of the State.

In a developing country such as Sri Lanka, public servants can embrace the qualities of servant leadership of being mindful of and caring for the underprivileged in society, prioritizing the growth and well-being of individuals and their communities and displaying awareness, empathy and foresight.

These qualities and responsibilities were reminded to top public servants earlier this week by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Addressing District Secretaries at the Home Ministry in Colombo on Tuesday he said some officers shirk their responsibilities trying to pass the buck to other institutions. However, as senior-most public servant of a district he or she has the overhaul authority as well as obligation to ensure smooth implementation of every Government programme of action.

Referring to the General Certificate of Examination (Advance Level) scheduled to take place shortly he pointed out that more than 300,000 children sit for the examination and warned that nobody should be allowed to disrupt the examinations. Any attempt to disrupt examinations that decides the future of these youths is a crime, he said and urged the public servants not to be a party to any such act.

“You must not try to wash your hands off by stating that the exams are the responsibility of the Examinations Department. You must be in close touch with them to monitor and ensure that exams are conducted smoothly. If it is disrupted the students will waste a full year. They cannot enter universities for another year and do not be a partner to such a crime,” he warned the senior public servants.

There is an accusation that most of the public servants work only to bring home a paycheck and support their families. However, just as in the private sector, public servants tend to do a much better job if they truly care about their work. Effective public servants must have an enduring sense of duty that compels them to go the extra mile and to behave with integrity.

When faced with a challenging situation, public servants who believe in a call to service are more likely to behave ethically. It is important to note that servant leadership can exist at all levels of an organisation. Some public service involves working directly with the people living in communities, while others may solely work with their teams in the organisation. In both settings, public servants can embrace the principles of servant leadership.

Speaking at the meeting held to discuss the ‘New Village – New Country; National Coordinated Participatory Development Programme’ the Prime Minister and several State Ministers emphasized the importance of boosting agriculture and the prime role of District Secretaries in this programme. Secretary of the Ministry Neil Bandara Hapuhinna said it is the responsibility of District Secretaries to ensure that the end targets of the plan are achieved.